by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
While this is a terrible situation for the hostage and almost as painful for the family. Yet it also presents unique ethical + security challenges for Israel as a nation and the Jewish people.
[ Brief background – Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped during a Hamas attack on Israeli territory. He’s been held in captivity for 5 years, completely cut off from the world. ]
The ethical and security challenges are: Hamas has been demanding a large number of terrorist prisoners in trade for Gilad Shalit. Judaism includes a strong concept of pidyon shevuim, redeeming of captives. Yet that concept also recognizes the reality that redeeming of captives can and does lead to an increasing drive of enemies to take additional captives. Further complicating it is that these captives are all ones who have specifically attacked or attempted to attack Jewish and Israeli civilians (making them murderers, attempted murderers or accomplices to murder – and war criminals by international law).
The issue is not the ethics of giving criminals their freedom, but rather their return to murderous activities. And even if they don’t personally return to such activities, their return will be celebrated as a success – encouraging a younger generation to take up murderous activities (for the glory and honor).
At the same time Israel as a nation has a duty to it’s soldiers, to do what it can to safely return them from war. And the Jewish people have a duty to each other, to help them be redeemed when captured.
How does one balance these competing needs? For a rare change I can offer no opinion. The competing ethical, security, societal and even family challenges make this an issue of the utmost ethical complexity.
Fortunately for these types of situations we have Torah and Gedolim (the great ones of Torah). This is exactly the type of situation where we must turn towards what’s become known as Daas Torah – to trust in those who’s lives have been seeped in Torah and have generations of experience in judging and balancing completing ethical, social and family challenges – and to be advised by experts on the security, political and national impacts.
From what I’ve heard, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received strong backing for the Gilad Schalit deal Tuesday night from Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, shlita”. Being I haven’t heard anything contrary from other Gedolim, it would seem the Daas Torah on this issue is to redeem the captive even given the implications.
I am not one who holds Daas Torah to be heaven sent judgments that are infallible, and unfortunately multiple incidents of manipulation of elderly gedolim have come out over the past few years. Yet we would all be foolish to say that this is not an insanely difficult ethical issue with many different ramifications. And if that’s not the time to turn to our Gedolim, I don’t know what is.
May Hashem grant our political and religious leaders to make the best judgments that all turn out for the good…for the prisoner, for the family, for the State of Israel, and for the Jewish people.